After Record Turnout, Academy Expands Voting Pool in Doc and Shorts Categories

Academy announces plans to send screeners in three categories that used to require attendance at special screenings, says transition to online voting increased participation

The Academy has dramatically expanded the potential pool of voters in three categories, looking to increase voter participation just as its first-ever adoption of online voting has apparently led to unexpectedly high turnout.

On Saturday, AMPAS president Hawk Koch sent an email to voters announcing that all 5,856 voting members would be sent screeners of all the nominees in the Best Documentary Feature, Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film categories.

AMPASThe change had actually been adopted by the Board of Governors more than a year ago, at a December 2011 meeting. 

Academy rules still require voters in the three categories to see all five nominees before voting, but the rules no longer insist that members to view the films theatrically at special AMPAS screenings.

The third short-film category, Best Documentary Short Subject, is not affected by the new policy, even though the push to expand the pool of voters via screeners began in the Documentary Branch when it changed the doc-feature rules a year ago.

Branch governor Michael Moore told TheWrap he plans to push for changes in the doc-shorts category this year.

The new procedures have the potential to increase the number of voters in those categories from the low hundreds into the thousands. The Academy does not release the numbers of members who vote, but those who've participated in the process have long surmised that categories requiring members to attend special voting screenings may only attract a couple hundred voters.

This year's nomination vote was beset by snags in the transition to online voting, with the Academy first pushing back the deadline for members to request paper ballots, then opting to automatically send ballots to every member who didn't sign up for the online option regardless of whether they'd requested paper.

The week that ballots were due, AMPAS also pushed back the final deadline for nomination voting by one day, amid rampant speculation and anecdotal evidence that voters were confused by the new procedures.

Many people insisted that the earlier deadline and the different voting procedures would cause members to give up, and thus substantially depress the number of voters who cast ballots.

But according to three Academy sources, voter turnout was in fact the highest number in years in every category.

With the use of screeners in three once-restricted categories, participation in the final vote should hit new highs as well.